BIRMINGHAM BOUND SBC ‘19
By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

I. I seriously internally and externally debated about attending SBC ’19 Birmingham because SBC entities repeatedly refuse to hire minorities as president of one of the entities, even when they are highly qualified. There have been five entity head vacancies in the SBC over the past 18 months. Four of the five have been filled. No minorities have been hired to date. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement.

II. The ten entity heads of the SBC assemble at least biannually, in a meeting known as the Great Commission Council. In a Convention comprised of 20% minorities—Asians, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, it is disheartening that SBC entity trustee boards, always find a way to deem minorities less than the right fit or not the best qualified candidate to be offered an entity head president’s job—consequently, disqualifying any minority service or the Great Commission Council. For the Great Commission Council to look like the White Citizens Council in the SBC is painful and shameful.

III. It is my intention to ask the chairman of the five entities who have hired, or will be soon, to answer these questions: (1) Were there any minorities interviewed as finalist for the job of president of the entity that you represent? (2) If not, why not?

IV.   I have received three responses from the five entities that I wrote letters to asking pointed questions regarding minority hiring/interviews as entity head presidents.

The SBC Executive Committee and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary did not offer a response to my letter of inquiry regarding minority interviews or finalist; again, I am very disappointed with their non-response. I did get an email from Ronnie Floyd, recently elected President of the EC, stating that the Chairman of the Search Committee and/or the Chairman of the EC Trustees would have to respond to my letter because he was new on the job and literally did not have the information to answer my questions. In a brief text message exchange with Dr. Adam Greenway, recently elected President of SWBTS, he responded similarly to Dr. Floyd; new to the job, did not know the answers to my questions; answers would have to come from the search committee for President, from SWBTS or Trustees.

Dr. Chuck Kelly, the recently retired President of NOBTS, responded with a thoughtful and thorough four-page letter. Honestly, I was encouraged by Dr. Kelly’s letter.

Regarding the report that he had stated that a minority hiring at NOBTS would not be good for fundraising reasons—Dr. Kelly said he has “been misrepresented, but have no intention of responding in kind with criticisms…or making elaborate defenses.” Dr. Kelly further stated:

“To get to the point of your question, I believe any person of any race can raise money effectively when they are doing what God wants them to do. Based on my experience as a candidate for a seminary presidency, I will say that any candidate, Anglo or minority, should expect Trustee perceptions about their ability to raise the millions of dollars required by academic institutions in today’s world, to be an important factor in candidate evaluations. It is not a racial issue. It is an experience issue. What evidence will Trustees see that you can do this?”

Dr. Kelly laid out four recommendations at my request, to increase the odds of a minority being hired as an entity head at NOBTS:

1. “Doctorate required, PhD strongly preferred; extensive, effective ministry experience in SBC churches expected; have a healthy marriage with no divorce in your past; clearly know and have a long-standing commitment to CP, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and the NOBTS Articles of Religious Beliefs (required of all faculty members and Trustees); and get clear experience in as many elements of a President’s role and/or the school’s mission and story as possible.”

2. “[G]et connected to the NOBTS family in as many ways as possible, such as participation in alumni activities, MissionLab ministry involvement, interaction with professors, etc. In other words, know the school and be known by people in the NOBTS family.”

3. “Get recommended…The number of recommendations can make a difference and the significance of the people making a recommendation can matter. I would advise against recommending yourself. For many Baptist search committees, self-nomination to be a President will send you to the bottom of the stack.”

4. “Understand and be able to articulate how and why you believe you fit into the larger NOBTS story…”

5. “We have forty Trustees. At present those forty Trustees include one African American, one Korean and three women.”

I know from independent sources that NOBTS actually interviewed two African American candidates who were finalists. In my judgment, the single most important factor related to why neither of the African American finalists was selected: because there is only one African American Trustee. That is where the crime is! Minorities in the SBC are experiencing taxation without representation.

Dr. Kelly would disagree with me: “You think the system is broken when it comes to hiring minorities to serve as entity heads. I disagree. I think it is undeveloped…The problem is a lack of focused attention on minority leadership development.”
I do not totally disagree with Dr. Kelly’s assessment. The truth probably lies somewhere between his position, and my position, that minorities are not being hired, because minorities are woefully not being appointed to trustee boards.

Dr. Kelly responded as a sage. My respect for him increased exponentially after reading his letter. In response to allegations of racism being hurled at him, because of a reputed remark that he recommended to the NOBTS Trustees, not to hire a minority President because of their inability to raise funds, Dr. Kelly’s response: “Flaws I have in abundance, but I am not a racist.” I accept Dr. Kelly’s explanation of the reputed racist remark. To the extent, I accepted and publicly articulated my view of his remark is racist, without the benefit of his broader and genetic application of the fundraising requirements of a NOBTS President—I apologize to Dr. Kelly for believing and further spreading the remark.

LifeWay has not hired a President as of this date. Brad Waggoner, Interim President, responded to my inquiry. He revealed that there are four minority trustees at LifeWay. Of these four, I have no idea if one is African American or not. I have been encouraged by Jim Richardson and Steve Gaines tweeting their support for a woman entity president at LifeWay, if the search committee made such a recommendation.

President J.D. Greear is advancing the SBC forward with the increased appointments of minority trustees. For that, I am grateful.

V.  I am looking forward to a debate/dialogue with Tom Ascol regarding “Does the Bible Permit Women to Preach in The Lord’s Day Worship Service?” on Monday, June 10, 4:00 p.m. at the Westin Birmingham. God has been gracious to me in my preparation. I am grateful to Rev. Ascol for accepting my challenge to debate this issue. Tom and I are often on opposite sides of many SBC hot-button issues. We both are “scrappy fellows.” My appreciation for him is sincere though, and I tell you why. In the early years of my attending the SBC, Tom reached out to me a hand of welcome and friendship. He invited me to a breakfast at a Founders Gathering and paid for my meal. Hardly two people in the SBC at the time even knew my name. Somehow, Tom knew of me, and extended a hand of welcome and brotherhood. That meant a lot to me; when you are a minority, at a SBC meeting, it helps when a member of the majority, goes out of their way to offer fellowship and friendship.

VI. The “For Such a Time as This Rally” is a significant gathering, that I am grateful to be asked to serve as one of their speakers on Tuesday, June 11, 6:15 p.m.

VII. “The Dangers of Social Justice Panel” is perhaps the only place where the potential for sparks to fly at an unofficial convention-related gathering, will take place, Monday, June 10, 7:00 p.m., at the Westin Birmingham. Tom Buck and Tom Ascol are both on this panel. I consider both “frenemies”; no, we are friends who simply often disagree. I love those brothers. I have never met Josh Buice. Whoever approved of the panel subject matter with the Black Power symbol in the background, simply do not appreciate or understand racial insensitivity. Thankfully, the Black Power sign from the promo materials has recently been removed. I pray that this event will be less explosive than I anticipate. At Tom Buck’s request, I submitted four questions, that I hope are asked and answered:

1. Will you please specify any “dangers” that you would associate with the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 50’s and 60’s?
2. Do you view the battle to end legal abortion as a social justice movement? If so, why? If not, why not?
3. Why is it that White SBC pastors do not address clear cases of police brutality, as they do the abortion issue?

And, with these seven concerns, and objectives, off to Birmingham I go!

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